Much of the hype in the build up to Hard West reiterated the same line: 'This is XCOM in the Wild West.' This is true to an extent, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Fans of the XCOM series will feel immediately at home in the turn based sections of the game but there are a few additions that add to the Wild West theme, most notably the luck meter. Every time a shot whizzes past the ear of a member of your posse, that character's luck meter goes down. Take a hit and it goes back up. The higher your luck meter, the more likely it is that you’ll beat the odds and land an impressive shot or dodge a bullet with your name etched into its casing.
While it might seem odd that any individual could know at any point precisely how lucky they are, and it would somewhat undermine the gravity of that famous line from Dirty Harry, it does add an extra layer of dynamism to shoot outs. The combat environments offer everything that a good turn-based strategy game should, with plenty of areas for cover, excellent vantage points, options for outflanking the enemy with your team; all are present and correct. However there are issues; the main trouble is that everything is just a little bit… brown.
Obviously the Old West was a harsh environment, but the visuals here offer no kind of vibrancy and fail to convey both the scale and splendour of the American west coast. Meanwhile the cut scenes are more worthy of a SNES era adventure game rather than anything from this decade. It’s an issue that hits you from the moment you load up for the first time and a disappointing distraction from what is otherwise a solid tactical game.
Despite attempting to inject elements of role play into particular sections that take place between combat, Hard West also struggles with storytelling. In fairness, the Wild West is a setting that’s been done to death and Hard West does its best to bring a twist of originality to the yarn that it’s spinning. Yet it isn’t enough to make the player feel any kind of emotional motivation to keep ploughing on.
As much as the comparisons to XCOM don’t tell the whole story of Hard West, it's probably fair to say that if you enjoy that brand of cautious run and gun, turn-based action, you’ll probably be able to forgive Hard West its sins.